5 meta-skills to supercharge every aspect of your life

Being a specialist used to be the way forward, but the future belongs to people who can adapt to any given scenario on a dime.

It used to be the case that learning a particular trade or skill meant you could land a reliable career. These days, however, constant learning is both expected and required to stay afloat. Rather than developing competency in, say, analysis or communication, modern life demands that we become more agile and able to shift on a dime towards the particular skills that challenges require.

That is why cultivating meta-skills is so important. Meta-skills are broad capabilities that help you to develop other skills and can be applied across a wide variety of domains. As more jobs become automated, possessing these skills will be more important than ever. 

Author Marty Neumeier makes the case for investing in five particular meta-skills in his book, Meta-skills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age: Feeling, Seeing, Dreaming, Making, and Learning.

1. FEELING

Just because the future of work lies in automation doesn’t mean that the human element will be taken out of the equation. Social intelligence is going to be an even more important skill than before — with technology outperforming our more analytical talents, individuals with more empathy and other uniquely human gifts are going to bring the most value to the table.

Feeling doesn’t just refer to interpersonal skills; it also covers qualities like intuition, or the ability to arrive at a conclusion without relying on conscious reasoning. The human mind wasn’t designed to do rigorous calculations. It was, however, designed to use heuristics to quickly arrive at likely solutions that serve us well enough most of the time. Learning to lean on this skill more will help you work with others and save time and effort when developing solutions.

2. SEEING

Computers are fantastic are addressing individual problems, but they don’t do so well at addressing the big picture. This meta-skill captures humanity’s ability to strategize, to understand how the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, and to escape biases.

It’s certainly easier to simplify things done to dichotomies, but the real world is complicated and multi-dimensional. Becoming better at seeing things isn’t quite so easy and can challenge your beliefs, but doing so provides a more accurate representation of the world. In turn, seeing better provides better information to act on when navigating the modern world.

3. DREAMING

Innovation, creativity, generative talent — these skills will always be in high demand. Once rigorous, linear work is outsourced to machines, the less precise and more fanciful talents of the human mind will become the primary characteristic that employers look for.

The antithesis of this meta-skill is the idea that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s true that being original and trying to innovate carries risk. Your innovation might fail, or it might make things worse, but nothing is going to be improved without taking that risk on. Settling for tried-and-true solutions also means settling for mediocrity.

4. MAKING

Neumeier characterizes this meta-skill as primarily being related to design and design thinking. “Design thinking is a generative approach to solving problems,” he says. “In other words, you create answers, you don’t find answers.”

Making overlaps with dreaming to a certain extent, but its key distinction lies in the prototyping and testing of generated solutions. Rather than seeking safety and assurance in pre-existing answers, talented makers are unafraid of the messy process of producing an original solution. It’s this ability to navigate uncertain scenarios and tolerate ambiguity that makes this such a valuable and powerful meta-skill.

5. LEARNING

Neumeier describes this as the “opposable thumb” of meta-skills. Learning how to learn enables you to improve every skill in your life. Gone are the days when a 4-year degree was all you needed to excel in the world. Nowadays, constant learning is a fact of life. This doesn’t have to be laborious — not only does learning lead to greater value, but learning itself can be an intrinsically rewarding activity.

Becoming better at this skill doesn’t mean that you have to learn a subject like mathematics, for example, if you hate it. Rather, talented learners find the subjects that bring them joy and dive into them. Doing this regularly will make you more curious and hungry to learn about other topics that you may not have cared for originally.

These five meta-skills inform nearly every talent and capacity that we exercise in our daily lives. Moreover, they aren’t going to be automated anytime soon. As rapidly as technology is advancing, it’s still a far cry from the curious abilities that millions of years of evolution have gifted us with. Taking advantage of these natural and uniquely human skills is the best way to stay relevant in the changing world.

Link Original: https://bigthink.com/smart-skills/5-meta-skills/#Echobox=1640843426


A unique brain signal may be the key to human intelligence

Though progress is being made, our brains remain organs of many mysteries. Among these are the exact workings of neurons, with some 86 billion of them in the human brain. Neurons are interconnected in complicated, labyrinthine networks across which they exchange information in the form of electrical signals. We know that signals exit an individual neuron through a fiber called an axon, and also that signals are received by each neuron through input fibers called dendrites.

Understanding the electrical capabilities of dendrites in particular — which, after all, may be receiving signals from countless other neurons at any given moment — is fundamental to deciphering neurons’ communication. It may surprise you to learn, though, that much of everything we assume about human neurons is based on observations made of rodent dendrites — there’s just not a lot of fresh, still-functional human brain tissue available for thorough examination.

For a new study published January 3 in the journal Science, however, scientists got a rare chance to explore some neurons from the outer layer of human brains, and they discovered startling dendrite behaviors that may be unique to humans, and may even help explain how our billions of neurons process the massive amount of information they exchange.

Electrical signals weaken with distance, and that poses a riddle to those seeking to understand the human brain: Human dendrites are known to be about twice as long as rodent dendrites, which means that a signal traversing a human dendrite could be much weaker arriving at its destination than one traveling a rodent’s much shorter dendrite. Says paper co-author biologist Matthew Larkum of Humboldt University in Berlin speaking to LiveScience, «If there was no change in the electrical properties between rodents and people, then that would mean that, in the humans, the same synaptic inputs would be quite a bit less powerful.» Chalk up another strike against the value of animal-based human research. The only way this would not be true is if the signals being exchanged in our brains are not the same as those in a rodent. This is exactly what the study’s authors found.

The researchers worked with brain tissue sliced for therapeutic reasons from the brains of tumor and epilepsy patients. Neurons were resected from the disproportionately thick layers 2 and 3 of the cerebral cortex, a feature special to humans. In these layers reside incredibly dense neuronal networks.

Without blood-borne oxygen, though, such cells only last only for about two days, so Larkum’s lab had no choice but to work around the clock during that period to get the most information from the samples. «You get the tissue very infrequently, so you’ve just got to work with what’s in front of you,» says Larkum. The team made holes in dendrites into which they could insert glass pipettes. Through these, they sent ions to stimulate the dendrites, allowing the scientists to observe their electrical behavior.

In rodents, two type of electrical spikes have been observed in dendrites: a short, one-millisecond spike with the introduction of sodium, and spikes that last 50- to 100-times longer in response to calcium.

In the human dendrites, one type of behavior was observed: super-short spikes occurring in rapid succession, one after the other. This suggests to the researchers that human neurons are «distinctly more excitable » than rodent neurons, allowing them to successfully traverse our longer dendrites.

In addition, the human neuronal spikes — though they behaved somewhat like rodent spikes prompted by the introduction of sodium — were found to be generated by calcium, essentially the opposite of rodents.

The study also reports a second major finding. Looking to better understand how the brain utilizes these spikes, the team programmed computer models based on their findings. (The brains slices they’d examined could not, of course, be put back together and switched on somehow.)

The scientists constructed virtual neuronal networks, each of whose neurons could could be stimulated at thousands of points along its dendrites, to see how each handled so many input signals. Previous, non-human, research has suggested that neurons add these inputs together, holding onto them until the number of excitatory input signals exceeds the number of inhibitory signals, at which point the neuron fires the sum of them from its axon out into the network.

However, this isn’t what Larkum’s team observed in their model. Neurons’ output was inverse to their inputs: The more excitatory signals they received, the less likely they were to fire off. Each had a seeming «sweet spot» when it came to input strength.

What the researchers believe is going on is that dendrites and neurons may be smarter than previously suspected, processing input information as it arrives. Mayank Mehta of UC Los Angeles, who’s not involved in the research, tells LiveScience, «It doesn’t look that the cell is just adding things up — it’s also throwing things away.» This could mean each neuron is assessing the value of each signal to the network and discarding «noise.» It may also be that different neurons are optimized for different signals and thus tasks.

Much in the way that octopuses distribute decision-making across a decentralized nervous system, the implication of the new research is that, at least in humans, it’s not just the neuronal network that’s smart, it’s all of the individual neurons it contains. This would constitute exactly the kind of computational super-charging one would hope to find somewhere in the amazing human brain.

Link original: https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/human-neuron-signals?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1


New invention promises quantum internet that can’t be hacked

Photo by panumas nikhomkhai on Pexels.com
  • Scientists devise the largest-ever quantum communications network.
  • The technology is much cheaper than previous attempts and promises to be hacker-proof.
  • The ‘multiplexing’ system devised by the researchers splits light particles that carry information.

Scientists are closer to creating a hacker-proof quantum internet thanks to a promising new invention. A team led by the University of Bristol in the U.K. found a method of securing online communication that relies on the laws of physics.

The approach aims to make any message sent over the internet interception-proof. 

Leer Más


Aqua-Fi: Underwater WiFi developed using LEDs and lasers

Aquatic internet that sends data through light beams could enable divers to instantly transmit footage from under the sea to the surface.

The internet is an indispensable communication tool, connecting tens of billions of devices worldwide, and yet we struggle to connect to the web from under water. «People from both academia and industry want to monitor and explore underwater environments in detail,» explains the first author, Basem Shihada. Wireless internet under the sea would enable divers to talk without hand signals and send live data to the surface.

Underwater communication is possible with radio, acoustic and visible light signals. However, radio can only carry data over short distances, while acoustic signals support long distances, but with a very limited data rate. Visible light can travel far and carry lots of data, but the narrow light beams require a clear line of sight between the transmitters and receivers.

Leer Más




Heal Your Inner Child

BY LISA J. SMITH

You’re a smart, well-rounded, and well-educated person, right? So why is it you keep making the same poor choices over and over again? Why do relationships in your life suffer because of poor communication? Why do you sometimes feel as though you have no control in your life? It could be because your inner child is in the driver’s seat, and if you’ve ever seen a six-year-old drive, well, that says it all.

Leer Más


Fast and hardwired: Gut-brain connection could lead to a «new sense»

 

 

 

 

 

The mysteries of our «second brain» are a profound new frontier in 21st century medical science. While research is rapidly discovering amazing connections between our gut and our brain, little is known about how these two distinct parts of the body communicate with each other. A remarkable new study has upturned existing ideas surrounding gut-brain communication, revealing a fast-acting neural circuit allowing gut cells to communicate with the brain in just seconds.

Leer Más


A Burra Unanimidade Do Senso Comum

Desde os primórdios da humanidade, certas características de um pensamento coletivo e uniforme são elevadas a categorias de uma falácia tornada verdade, concretização de uma generalização perversa para encaixar grupos, pessoas, seres e ideias como algo ruim, decrépito e nocivo à sociedade. Estou falando do já consagrado senso comum, tão em evidencia nos últimos tempos, graças ao seu predomínio nos meios de comunicação. O senso comum é fato consumado para legitimar argumentos retóricos, geralmente inconsistentes, permeados por concepções generalistas  dos fatos relatados.

Leer Más